Sunday, May 29, 2011

Baked Ziti (Rigatoni)

I've been MIA for the past couple of weeks! I've been swamped with everything going on in classes. This week is officially dead week. Dead week is really a nickname for the week before finals and let me tell you, that name is true in every way, shape and form. It's not even the first day of dead week and I'm already feeling the pressure.

In honor of dead week, I have cooked up something savory, Baked Ziti, or in this case, Baked Rigatoni! Essentially, it's lasagna without all the layering. Plus, it makes a ton of food and keeps for a long time in the refrigerator. Baked Ziti is perfect for people who don't have the time to always be cooking throughout the week. Plus, with it, you always know that you have something to eat and have nothing to worry about! :)

-To the garlic, I added 1/2 a medium onion and I added 1 lb of ground beef as well to give the Baked Ziti a heartier appeal. (Can definitely be omitted.)

-I used a 32 ounce jar of marinara sauce instead of using the canned tomatoes. Makes everything a lot easier. In a way, I just made a basic meat sauce.

- I cooked the Rigatoni Pasta until Aldente. Make sure not to overcook the pasta!

Taste: Aldente Rigatoni pasta, tanginess and meatiness from the meat sauce, creaminess from the b├ęchamel sauce with a hint of nutmeg as an undertone and, of course, the ooey-gooey melted cheese that everyone loves!

Texture: Aldente pasta and heartiness and creaminess from all the sauces

Scuderi Kids' Fast, Fake-Baked Ziti
Recipe By Rachael Ray

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 3 turns of the pan
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 a medium onion
1 lb ground beef
1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes (recommended: San Marzano)
1 (14-ounce) can crushed tomatoes, (recommended: San Marzano)* If San Marzanos are not available, add a teaspoon sugar to your sauce, optional (I used a 32 ounce jar of marinara sauce)
Coarse salt
A handful fresh basil leaves, torn
1 pound ziti rigate, with ridges (I used Rigatoni)
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Freshly ground black pepper
Salt to taste
A generous grating nutmeg (I used 1/8 tsp nutmeg)
2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup shredded asiago cheese
1/2 cup shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 cup sliced fresh mozzarella
Crusty bread, to pass at table

Put pasta water on to boil.

In a medium sauce pot over medium heat, saute garlic and onions in extra-virgin olive oil. Add 1 lb of ground beef and brown. Chop whole tomatoes and add them to the pan. Add crushed tomatoes and salt and simmer 10 minutes, add basil and simmer over low heat 10 minutes more. Instead of adding the tomatoes, use one 32 ounce jar of marinara sauce. Season to taste

Add salt and pasta to boiling water and cook 6 minutes, leaving pasta a little chewy.

While pasta cooks, melt butter in a small pot over medium heat. Whisk in flour, then cook 1 minute, adding salt and pepper and nutmeg to flour. Add milk and bring sauce to a bubble. Reduce 5 minutes.

Drain pasta and transfer to a large casserole dish. Pour the tomato and basil sauce over the pasta and turn to coat the pasta. Pour the bechamel over the already coated pasta. Cover the top of the pasta with Asiago, Parmesan and mozzarella. Place the casserole under hot broiler and melt the 3 cheeses until brown and bubbly, 3 to 5 minutes.

-Aaron John

Sunday, May 15, 2011

"Praline's N' Cream" Cookies

I was looking through my blogger posts and found this little number. This post was hiding among the other 90 or so posts that I had and it seemed as if I had totally forgotten to post it. Luckily enough, I didn't have time to make anything thing this weekend and this magically appears. Wouldn't you call this a sign? ha.

This "Praline's N' Cream" Cookie goes way back to my "Ice Cream Into Cookies" Project. I had a request to turn this flavor from Baskin Robbin's into a cookie. I have never tried this flavor of ice cream before but I gave the cookie a shot anyway. Whether this matches the flavor of the cookie, I have no clue. lol. Until I taste that ice cream I will never know. Maybe you've tried that ice cream before?

-Not much really. It's really just making a chocolate chip cookie but with pecans. If you can make chocolate chip cookies, you can make these.

Taste: If you like pecans, this is the cookie for you. Packed with pecans giving the cookie a distinct flavor. A sort of "smokey" sweetness from the caramel and a vanilla flavor from the white chocolate.

Texture: Chewy cookie with an added crunch from the pecans and a "creaminess" from the chocolate and the caramel drizzle. The outer coating of the pecans themselves created a chewy quality to them as well.

"Pralines N' Cream" Cookie (Makes 1 Dozen 5 inch Cookies or 4 Dozen Mini Cookies)
Recipe by Me

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup white sugar
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
3/4 cup white chocolate chips

1 1/2 cups of Pecan Praline Morsels
Caramel Syrup/Sauce

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper. Sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt into a medium bowl and set aside.

Place the butter, sugar, and brown sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer; cream together on medium speed until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Beat in the vanilla and eggs. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture and continue to mix until a smooth batter forms. Turn off the mixer and fold in the Pecan Pralines and chocolate chips using the spatula.

To form the cookies, scoop about 1/4 cup of cookie dough into your hands and roll it around into a ball; place them about 3-inches apart onto the prepared cookie sheets; you should get about 4 cookies on each pan. Press down the tops of the dough slightly and bake until the cookies are light brown, 12 minutes for chewy cookies, or about 15 minutes for crispy cookies.

Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with remaining dough/cookie sheets.

-Aaron John

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Vanilla Dutch Baby

It's that time of year again, Mother's Day is just around the corner. Literally, it's tomorrow. ha. When I think of Mother's Day, the first food related event that comes to mind is Brunch. Whoever invented Brunch is a genius. It's not exactly, breakfast, not exactly lunch yet you can eat all the foods that are associated with those two. Another opportunity to pig out? I think so.

While you're contemplating what Brunch meal you'll be making for tomorrow, I've decided to test out a Brunch item, a Vanilla Dutch Baby. Essentially it's just a puffed pancake. Simple to make? Yes. Will  this make it on my brunch table? Not going to happen. ha. I saw this recipe as someone who made crepe batter, was lazy and thus, put all the batter in a pan and baked. For all I know, that's probably what it's supposed to taste like. But I do think you're better off just making crepes instead of making this recipe.

-I used a hand mixer instead of a blender. Just make sure you add the wet ingredients slowly and try to get the lumps of flour out in the beginning of mixing

Taste: Not sweet, very eggy tasting with a slight hint of vanilla flavor.

Texture: Extremely doughy with no textural difference. Despite the edges being golden brown, it became doughy just like the center. It almost had an "uncooked" feeling when eaten.

Vanilla Dutch Baby
Recipe by Melissa d'Arabian

3 tablespoons butter
3 eggs
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup milk, heated 20 to 30 seconds in the microwave
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Pinch salt
1 pint fresh or frozen blueberries
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Place the butter in a large saute pan and place in the oven to melt.

Meanwhile, in a blender, combine the eggs, flour, hot milk, 1 tablespoon sugar, vanilla extract, and pinch of salt, and blend on medium-high speed until uniform. Cook's Note: If mixing by hand, combine the eggs with the milk until the mixture is light yellow and no longer stringy, about 1 minute. Add the flour, sugar, vanilla, and pinch of salt, and whisk vigorously to remove the lumps, about 30 seconds.

Carefully, remove the hot pan from the oven. The butter should be melted. Swirl the butter around the pan to coat completely, and then pour the remaining butter into the batter and whisk to blend. Pour the batter into the hot pan and return the pan to the oven. Cook the pancake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the pancake is puffed in the center, and golden brown along the edges.

While the Dutch baby bakes, in a small bowl combine the fresh blueberries, 1 teaspoon sugar, and lemon zest. Stir to coat, and set aside to marinate.

Using a spatula, remove the entire Dutch baby from the pan and place on a cooling rack for a few minutes to allow the steam to escape without condensing along the bottom and rendering the pancake soggy. Slice the pancake into wedges on a serving platter or cutting board and sprinkle with the confectioners' sugar through a sieve. Serve with the marinated blueberries.

-Aaron John


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